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David Edgar

Humanitas Visiting Professor in Drama 2014-2015
Photo of David Edgar

David Edgar was born in 1948 into a theatre family. After a period in journalism, he took up writing full time in 1972. In 1989, he founded Britain's first graduate playwriting course, at the University of Birmingham, of which he was director for ten years. He was appointed as Britain's first Professor of Playwriting in 1995. His book about playwriting, How Plays Work, was published by Nick Hern Books in 2009.
His original stage plays include Death Story (Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 1972), Entertaining Strangers (Dorchester Community Play, 1985, then National Theatre 1987), That Summer (Hampstead Theatre, London, 1987), Playing with Fire (National Theatre, 2005), A Time to Keep (with Stephanie Dale, Dorchester Community Play, 2007), Testing the Echo (Out of Joint, 2008) and If Only (Chichester Festival Theatre, 2013). His stage adaptations include Albie Sachs's Jail Diary (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1978), Mary Barnes and Joe Berke's Mary Barnes (Birmingham Rep then Royal Court, London, 1978-9), a version of Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby (Royal Shakespeare Company in London and New York, 1980-1, subsequently Channel 4 Television), Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1991), Gitta Sereny's Albert Speer (National Theatre, 2000), and Julian Barnes’s Arthur and George, premiered in 2010 at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. He has written a version of Brecht's Galileo (Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 2005) and his version of Mother Courage was premiered at the Shakespeare Festival, Stratford Ontario, earlier this year.

His original plays for the Royal Shakespeare Company include Destiny (1976), Maydays (1983), Pentecost (1994-5), The Prisoner’s Dilemma (2001) and Written on the Heart (2011). The Shape of the Table was premiered at the National Theatre in 1990. His two plays about an American governor's election (Daughters of the Revolution and Mothers Against, jointly titled Continental Divide) were coproduced by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Berkeley Rep at their own theatres and in Birmingham and London, England, and La Jolla, California, in 2003-4.

David Edgar's television work includes both serials and single plays and he has written extensively for radio (including adaptations of The Shape of the Table and Pentecost). He also wrote the screenplay for Trevor Nunn's film Lady Jane (Paramount, 1986). He writes regularly for the Guardian, the London Review of Books and other journals, broadcasts on Radio 3 and 4. and has contributed to many books. He edited and introduced a book of contributions to the Birmingham Theatre Conference, State of Play, for Faber in 1999, and wrote a new introduction to Shaw's Plays Unpleasant in 2000. A collection of his non-dramatic writings, The Second Time as Farce, was published by Lawrence and Wishart in 1988. 

David Edgar spent a year in the United States as a UK/US Bicentennial arts fellow in 1978-9, and was Judith E.Wilson senior arts fellow at Cambridge University in 1996. His writing awards including the Arts Council’s John Whiting award for Destiny, the Society of West End Theatres and New York Tony best play award for Nicholas Nickleby, the Plays and Players best play award for Maydays, and the Evening Standard best play award for Pentecost.